Little Beach

If you’re going to write about home then perhaps the best time to do this is after a prolonged absence.


This will likely be the last year I spend any real time here. The squat little whitewashed 1920’s bungalow perched on the hill that I grew up in is being sold and my parents are vacating the county. I severed most of my emotional ties with the house years ago but I confess that I may have been re-attaching some of those in the last few weeks.

Sea Wall

Every year since I was able, except the last, I have swum off what has always been known as ‘Little Beach’ at Pentewan. It wouldn’t be too much hyperbole to say I grew up here on the coarse sands. Childhood, adolescence, adulthood. A number of the formative experiences of those indistinct phases we all encounter have occurred within the confines of this little coastal village.

it’s quite something to have such a constant, taken for granted of course but now this constant has its end in sight I am sensitive to my time here. Finality is a powerful impetus. As I approach thirty whole years of age, I start to see life for what it is, or so I think. The remnants of a sea wall crumbling into the sea built on the shifting sands of a childhood. A glassy sea in June, capable of great violence but now appeased and peaceful. A collection of memories. A mark left somehow, small or large, far reaching or localised, both perhaps.


So now I am here again, home in a sun-drenched Cornwall in June, battling the same old vices of indolence and nicotine addiction but trying hard to appreciate every sunset, the immensity of the trees in full bloom, every cool swim in the clear sea, forge new friendships, write more things, draw more.

I heard somewhere that the mind is like a soft rock. When water runs over it it forms channels and funnels, paths of least resistance, through which it will flow more easily and erode further as we age. This is a great analogy. I suppose we have to force that water to flow differently. Follow new paths. Carve new grooves. Easier said.

Spiral path 2.jpg



I’m home. A year and half has passed.

Going from winter to summer in 24 hours landed me in the humid air of Heathrow. Body clock shot, seasonally confused.


I had forgotten the feel of England in summer and I have spent the subsequent week revelling in it. Lush and verdant. Despite the depressive homogeneity of the high streets and chainstores, industrial estates and service stations (the same anywhere). There is a great deal to be relished and delighted in. Old stone buildings, field patterns, the thick and effulgent trees and grassy meadows at their peak, the familiar insects at dusk.

This is the view from the house I grew up in, looking up the Pentewan valley on a warm evening. Something I had been able to look at every year until the last one.

The air is thick with summer and I am relatively at peace trying to catch up with old friends and full of new resolutions for the months ahead.

South, Berlins.

The South Island is diffferent. Apparent from the moment the large, comfortable Interislander ferry, escaping the rolling oceanic swells of the Cook Straits, glided into Marlborough Sounds at dusk.

A world away from the busy industry of the Wellington ports and the relative bustle of the North. It is immediately quieter, calmer but wilder and more remote, I suppose one could draw analogies with the Kiwi psyche. The brashness and loudness of the quasi tropical, volcanic north juxtaposed with the remote and quiet wildness of the outrageously beautiful south.

Mount patriarch.jpg
Mount Patriarch. A fairly unheralded mountain in the empty Kahurangi national park. It got to me though, walking miles from anyone. Calling me to climb it as mountains tend to do. 

Travelling again is refreshing but expensive. I am dwelling within a fairly dilapidated, leaky van that fustrates as much as it delights.


I have pushed this beast to Nelson, Takaka and the very north of the south, to the Kaharangi National Park and the Wangapeka River and now it sits in a rainly campsite in an odd little place called Berlins, consisting entirely of an old pub overlooking the powerful Buller River. Taken over and run by the quintessentially Kiwi Dean and rejuvenated into a pub/truck stop/diner/campground. Catering to the endless stream of motorised tourists travelling the long and winding highway 6 to the West Coast. A haven for travellers, motorhomes and sandflies. The sign in the door said help wanted and so I stayed in this peculiar limbo-like little place for the Easter. It felt right.

The three residents are colourful enough to form the basis for a novel that I am too ill-disciplined to write. A permanently grumpy but in fact rather kind waitress escaping something in her past, a french girl who speaks no English despite living here for a year, a haphazard, grizzled, taciturn but friendly and eminently likeable owner who has quite clearly done, seen and been part of a great deal. This, I suppose, is the essence of travelling, the unexpected meetings, interactions and lives that you encounter.

I can’t help but think on fatalism in the rain. Was I always going to end up here? Was I supposed to meet and mix with this odd collection of humans. Is there a reason I am supposed to find? I felt drawn here. When you look at a map do you find you are drawn to certain places? I do. I like to follow that.

It makes one think though just how much control we have and the irrational part of my mind debates the rational.

If I hadn’t stopped and spend Easter with Dean and the crew at Berlins then would life have been different? Would I have gone to Karamea afterwards, would I have met the Czech girl there, would I have seen the Cave Spider at the Oparara Arches and eyed the broiling Tasman trying to lure me in to kill me? Would I have travelled south or along the west coast or would I have gone to do the Kirwins track in Reefton as I had meant to and seen Arthurs Pass rather than take the coastal route.

Life takes the path that it does of course but it’s such an arbitrary lineage of choices and their outcomes that it takes some getting one’s head around. I suppose this frighteningly complex nebula of possibilities and consequences is so mind-fucking that the thought of being guided through it is calming. It is remarkably calming actually.  Also the fact that quite of few of us to negotiate this minefield with relative luck, ease and success it feels as though we are being guided.